Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A View Of The Bench (from the back row)

Riverhead, NY – Criminal Court – Non-jury – Section 13 – Part Y
   The reason for me being there is of no consequence to this entry. What I heard and observed is all that needs reciting and comment. It was the bright, sunny morning of July 10th. Those of us having business with the Court, or simply there as an observer, were told, well in advance, that we should be at the Courtroom doors no later than 9:00 am. Being set forth in bold print on our notice, one would easily regard this order as a fairly stringent one. To be late, it seemed, might put you in jeopardy of being set further back in their calendar. Court dates are hard to come by, so you feel the urgency and necessity of following instructions closely.

   There are four non-jury courtrooms in a row at the facility; one of which we were assigned to. There were just a few people milling about, or leaning against a wall. It was 9:05 am by the time we actually got to the courtroom doors. In my naiveté, I was a little concerned that we might be considered as “tardy-to-the-party”, but I soon learning how sorely mistaken I was. For the next two hours the halls filled with us normal folk and a whole slew of lawyers and law clerks. They were all scurrying about like turkeys just before Thanksgiving; hauling massive milk crates of legal files; and generally flying in and out of doors apparently not quite sure where they were supposed to be and just what files they were to bring and where to put them. I did notice that close to show time most of the milk crates full of legal files that had been so proudly dragged about earlier had been retired from whence they originated.

   Our Man showed up promptly at 10:00 am. He had a few quick words with us then he, too, scurried into the courtroom with that special “lawyerly” look of concern on his face. Then he joined in the show and was in and out, in and out, etc. Finally, at 11:05 am, we were ushered into the courtroom, and we took seats in the last row. This was a good thing, as it gave me an excellent vantage point to see the proceedings. {One side note: I had overheard from a “lawyerly” looking type that the Judge only allows his court time to run until 1:00, or 1:30, pm. That got my attention.}

   Well we all rose when the Judge arrived, and he was courteous enough to command all in attendance be seated.  It was now 11:15 am, and the Bailiff called the first case. This went fairly smoothly I suppose, because everyone was talking very low and it sounded like the murmur you hear from any ordinary crowd of people. A few papers got shuffled, a few papers got signed, and then the papers got shuffled, again. The first entourage left in what appeared to be a good mood. Then, low and behold, our case was called up in second place. As one of our party was at the bar with our “lawyerly” looking lawyer, I was jotting down notes; much as I had been doing prior to entering the courtroom. Don’t you know this action drew the attention of the Bailiff, and over she came to have a look see at what I was so intently engaged in doing. Surmising that I was not a threat to humanity and I was simply applying pen to paper, she let out an audible grunt probably signifying her disappointment at not being able to wield her omnipotent power of authority. I smiled on the outside, and laughed on the inside. Score one for “We The Peeps”. There was some more unintelligible banter from the front of the room; a few papers were shuffled; a few papers were signed; and the papers were, once again, shuffled. The gavel struck, and our party of the first part was allowed to vacate the chamber. We were then obliged to go over to the Parole Board window to, you guessed it, fill out, shuffle, sign, and reshuffle some more paper work. It was then, and only then, that we were able bid a fond farewell to our “lawyerly” looking lawyer, and exit the building

   Throughout this whole exercise, I was very much surprised at the amount of paper that passed before my eyes. Whether under someone’s arm, cradled out in front, or wheeled in milk crates, there was just a lot of paper; a rough estimate might put the amount at three trees. Another aspect of this whole experience was the realization that this “judgely” Judge was going to devote a grand total of three to three and a half hours adjudicating to all the evil doers in his courtroom for that day. Now, I’m no expert of Judge’s salaries, but I’d be willing to place a small wager on the assumption that these people make a pretty good living wage. Of course, the money they put in their pockets is Taxpayers money. Call me old fashion, but when you pay someone that kind of money to do a specific job, its reasonable to expect a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. Anything less is gaming the system, and cheating us, the lowly Taxpayer, out of productivity, efficiency, ethics, not to mention our hard earned dollars.

   If this is a simple microcosm of how our Justice system works, on a daily basis, its no wonder where all our money goes. Reflecting on the past, I now do not think the Beatles ruined our Society, as so many folks still do. I truly believe that it is all these “lawyerly” lawyers and “judgely” Judges that are bleeding us dry. The retort I hear the most is that running this Country is so complicated that we need “lawyerly” lawyers to keep everything running smoothly. I’m going out on a limb, here, and saying, “How’s that been workin’ out, lately?” As far as I’m concerned, Physics and Rocket Science are complicated; running a government isn’t. Running a government is done with compassion, empathy, logic, reason, and rational thinking. It seems to me that when we get the Law Profession involved in anything, whatever it is turns into an unmanageable pile of crap. Let’s not allow everything to turn into an unmanageable pile of crap. Don’t hire any more lawyers.